Planning Update

Okay, so I’ve reverted to my lazy “doesn’t keep a blog/diary” usual self.  My defence is meek but two-fold: 1) I’ve never before kept a blog as I’ve never before had reason to; 2) The last 4 months, I’ve really not been doing anything particular worthwhile writing about.

I’ve been out a couple of times on the bike though not nearly as much as I should have done, but strangely and rather unnaturally, it is more expensive to cycle to work on a daily basis than it is to drive – when factoring in daytime car parking charges (I now live city centre).  Also, I’ve had what has been the worst and most persistent seasonal cold I think I’ve ever had, which has drained me of any energy to do anything but sleep many days after work (maybe a couple of lunchbreaks also!).

I’ve been able to give planning a bit of a rest too.  First off, I’m fairly settled on my route – or the basics of it (see previous blog post from 4 months ago).  The big route change is that I’ve decided to aim to wild-camp as much as possible, saving huge expense of paying to pitch a tent in campsites.  I know the practice of wild-camping is not technically permitted in the US, but I have a fundamental issue with having to pay to sleep.  And not paying to sleep in fixed campsites – which from what I’ve seen, in the US, many “campsites” are actually only RV Parks, without space for tent pitches – which is also just wrong!  And the campsites which do offer space for tents, still charge $30-45 per night for the privilege.  For a tent!  The most basic form of self-sufficient accommodation – just wrong.

I’ve also been reading a whole lot of blogs by other adventure cyclists.  I say “other”, some of these folk take cycling to a whole new level of lifestyle, and I just don’t come close to falling into the same category.  Some of these blogs have been entertaining, some inspiring, few properly helpful.  Tom’s Bike Trip is the real exception: entertaining, inspiring AND helpful.

In the process, I’ve been mulling quite a few questions over in my mind these past few months of not writing blog:

  • why do I want to cycle across the US?
  • Genesis or Trek?
  • can I raise money for charity (why not?)?
  • and if so, which charity or charities should I choose to support?
  • which bike should I get?
  • should I buy a bike in the UK and pay extra for flight to take it over & back, or just buy a bike over there?
  • Can I afford this trip?
  • Am I fit enough for this trip?
  • What tent should I buy?
  • What sleeping bag should I buy?
  • What camping mattress should I buy?
  • What panniers should I buy?
  • Regular trainers, basket-pedals or clip-in cycle shoes?
  • If a regular Iranian cyclist wants to do same cycle, but is barred from entering the US by Trump’s discriminatory and racist policies, why should I seek to enter a country who bans other cyclists?
  • Will my knees hold up to the rigours of 2.5 months of consistent, long days cycling?
  • What kind of blog do I want to keep?
  • How am I going to stay motivated?

In short, and through reading many of Tom’s blog posts, I realise I’m possibly over-planning and taking things too seriously – although judging myself against Mark Beaumont’s prep for his round-the-world record breaking cycle, maybe I’m not taking it seriously enough…

Tom offers plenty of sound advice: Buy your tent, sleeping bag, mattress at REI upon arrival in the US; go clip-ins; and importantly, if it’s really not an adventure done specifically to raise money for charity, then trying to make it appear so will only derail the honest reason for the trip – that it’s a personal challenge.

In the time I’ve now spent writing this update – started as I was “in a queue” with Aer Lingus to book my bike onto flights – 3 hours later, I’ve finally booked my flights.  I’m going to be flying into Boston on the 4th May, and out of San Francisco on the 1st August.  So for a 2.5-3 month cycle trip from Portland to Portland, I’m not really leaving myself much time to spare – especially given that I want to have time to revisit Napa Valley (wineries) towards the end of the trip!

The other decisions though:

  • Because it’s a personal challenge.  It’s been an ambition for many years, and what’s the point of having ambitions if you don’t set out to achieve them or allow them to give direction to your life.
  • I’m going to be riding the Genesis Tour De Fer 20.  I will be buying this in the UK as it’s not currently available in the US, and I have paid for it to come with me on my flights.
  • I’m not doing this trip specifically to raise money for charity.  However, if you would like to donate something, please do so to the John Muir Trust.
  • I can’t afford not to do this trip.
  • The only way to get fit enough for the trip is to start the trip – the first 2 weeks of steady cycling will break me into the trip (or just break me!).
  • Tent, sleeping bag, mattress and panniers are standard fares, can be picked up as easily in the US as here in the UK.
  • I have recently purchased a pair of Giro Rumble MTB clip-in shoes; though I’ll also possibly take spare pair of freet sandals.
  • Part of the reason for cycling east to west (against the prevailing wind), is that this is how the first European settlers discovered America.  For all that has happened through wars, settlement expansion, long and short-term politics; the American geographical landscape is about the same now as it was then.  I really want to see the landscapes of America open and change before me in the same way as it did for those settlers only a few centuries ago.  Also, I firmly believe in the goodness that is natural in most people, and regardless of politics, I enjoy the company of American people as much as I do that of people from any country.
  • My knees will darn well do what I tell them!  Wishful thinking.  Bad joints is an issue for many/most people who participate in sporting activities.  I’ve had knee issues over the past few years, unresolved other than well rested.  However, for all the stresses and strains placed upon knees by cycling, the movement is that which is natural to the joints (compared to the abusive pounding or twisting motions of running), and the predictable, constant, soft-testing should actually build the supporting muscles around the knees, so aiding knee recovery.  Theoretically!
  • This blog may occasionally be a long-winded mumble or rant, but for the most part, during the trip shall be a simple photo-diary with brief comments from the day(s).  Much in the same way as trying to justify a trip for charity purposes, I could get lost in trying to justify my challenge as a way to write something interesting and/or entertaining and/or insightful.  I reckon you’d rather just check out the pictures of the country passing by.
  • By trying not to overthink silly questions such as “How are you going to keep yourself motivated?” – although, with all the solitary personal time on the bike, I might come up with some solid answers…
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